A newly discovered organelle inside neurons, the multivesicular transducosome, was found to be involved in the sense of smell. The new discovery may have implications for further research into the sense of smell, a common symptom of COVID-19.

“In order to find a treatment for impaired sense of smell, we first need to understand how the sense of smell works,” says Staffan Bohm, professor at Ume University’s Department of Molecular Biology.

What are organelles and how are they involved in smell perception

Organelles are different ‘work stations’ within cells that can be compared to different organs of the body, meaning that different organelles have different functions in the cell. Most organelles are common to different cell types, but there are also organelles with specific functions that occur only in certain cell types. Olfactory nerve cells have long projections called cilia that project into the nasal cavity and contain proteins that bind odorants and thus initiate nerve impulses to the brain. The conversion of odor into nerve impulses is called transduction, and the newly discovered organelle contains only transduction proteins.

Upon stimulation of the olfactory bulb, the outer membrane of the organelle ruptures, releasing transduction proteins so that they can reach the cilia of the neuron and the odor is perceived.

If the RP2 gene is mutated, it can cause a variant of the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, which damages the light-sensitive cells of the eye.

Staffan Bohm says: “A question for further research is whether the transductosome has a role in vision and whether it is present in brain neurons that are activated by neurotransmitters, not light and smell. If so, the discovery could be even more important.”


The transducosome was discovered when researcher Devendra Kumar Maurya used a new technique called correlative microscopy. The technique combines electron microscopy and confocal microscopy so that the internal structures of a cell and the location of various proteins can be imaged simultaneously. Crucial to the discovery was the development of Devendra’s method, which allowed the technique to be used to analyze whole neurons in tissue sections.

Source: Eurekalert

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